Earl Grey vs. English Breakfast: What's the Difference?

Earl Grey and English Breakfast are two of the most popular types of black tea. While they share many similarities, there are a few important differences between these classic blends. We’ll cover what Earl Grey and English Breakfast tea are, how they differ, and how to choose the best tea to fit your palate.

Our Earl Grey Teas

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The difference between Earl Grey and English Breakfast

English Breakfast and Earl Grey are both black teas made from the camellia sinensis tea plant. They both have origins in England, and today they’re some of the most popular types of tea enjoyed all over the world. If you’ve ever been to a high tea, or walked through the tea aisle of a grocery store, chances are you’ve spotted Earl Grey or English Breakfast tea in the wild.

While Earl Grey and English Breakfast tea share some common features, the most important difference between the two blends is a simple one: English Breakfast is composed only of black tea leaves, while Earl Grey blends black tea leaves with bergamot essential oil. This difference means that the two teas have somewhat different flavor profiles.

What does English Breakfast tea taste like?

English Breakfast is bold, hearty, and malty, with notes of spice and a moderate astringency. This tea blend is robust enough to go well with the addition of milk and sugar or honey. Our English Breakfast is made from an aromatic blend of Ceylon, Assam, and Tanzanian black teas.

What does Earl Grey taste like?

Earl Grey blends black tea leaves with bergamot, a small citrus fruit native to the Meditteranean that’s sometimes described as a cross between a lemon and a lime. Earl Grey tastes smooth and balanced, with notes of citrus, spice, malt, and smoke. Like English Breakfast, Earl Grey shares the full body and malty, spicy notes of a classic black tea, while also adding a citrus kick to the mix.

What is Earl Grey tea?

Citrusy and with a hint of sweetness and spice, Earl Grey is a tea flavored with bergamot essential oil. While the history of Earl Grey tea is unclear, it most likely acquired its name from Earl Charles Grey, a 19th-century British Prime Minister who helped to popularize the tea. Today, Earl Grey is a well-loved classic.

Bergamot is a small, pear-shaped citrus fruit cultivated primarily in the Mediterranean. The aromatic essential oil pressed from the rind of bergamot has a slightly spicy, citrusy taste that, when added to tea, lends Earl Grey its distinctive flavor. While bergamot is typically added to black tea to make a classic Earl Grey, the essential oil can be added to any type of tea to create a similar flavor.

Like other types of black tea, Earl Grey has a moderate amount of caffeine, about half that of a cup of coffee.

What is English Breakfast tea?

English Breakfast is a hearty breakfast blend originating from England. This blend usually contains a mix of Indian, Chinese, and African black teas, and has a robust body with notes of malt and spice. English Breakfast is hearty enough to be taken with milk and sweetener, but can also be enjoyed on its own.

While tea originated in China and is now grown primarily in China, India, and African countries like Kenya and Tanzania, tea culture also has a rich history in the British Isles. While the origins of breakfast blends are not entirely clear, some tea historians attribute the start of what we now call "breakfast tea" to Queen Anne, who made it fashionable to drink tea instead of ale alongside a hearty breakfast.

Others date the breakfast tea phenomenon to about a hundred years ago, when a Scottish tea merchant in Edinburgh created a very stout blend to go with the traditionally heavy morning meal. Queen Victoria is said to have loved a Scottish blend of tea, and English tea companies quickly began creating their own blends, dubbing them "English Breakfast" tea. Referring to blends as "breakfast tea" from a specific country caught on, particularly in the United States.

There are nearly as many different blends of English Breakfast tea as there are tea purveyors, all with a slightly different combination of Indian teas like Assam as well as teas from countries like China, Sri Lanka, and Tanzania.

Our English Breakfast and Earl Grey teas

English Breakfast and Earl Grey blends are some of the most popular black teas we carry. We offer a classic English Breakfast blend as well as four different Earl Grey blends to choose from.

English Breakfast Black Tea

Our English Breakfast is an aromatic blend of Ceylon, Assam, and Tanzanian black teas. English Breakfast has a classic rich, malty taste that goes well with milk and sugar.

Organic Earl Grey Black Tea

Our Organic Earl Grey is our classic Earl Grey blend—a perfect combination of black tea leaves and bergamot essential oil that’s sure to delight all Earl Grey lovers. Flavored with oil of bergamot sourced from Italy, this tea has a smooth, citrusy, slightly floral flavor and a full body with a smooth finish. This tea is refreshing hot or iced, or even prepared as a London Fog Latte!

Earl Grey Francais Black Tea

If you love the taste of bergamot, you're sure to enjoy this tea. Flavored with bergamot oil from France, this tea is a bolder, more aromatic version of the traditional Earl Grey, with citrusy, sweet, and slightly spicy notes.

Earl Grey Lavender Black Tea

A classic cup of Earl Grey gets a makeover in Provence! This lovely blend of bergamot flavored black tea and lavender blossoms adds a soothing floral note to Earl Grey. This tea is soothing, aromatic, and refreshing hot or iced.

Earl Grey Rooibos Herbal Tea

Love Earl Grey but trying to steer clear of caffeine? This naturally caffeine-free version of Earl Grey is sure to hit the spot. Rooibos tea leaves are flavored with oil of bergamot for a light, citrusy tea with a pleasant natural sweetness.

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